Transmigration – Top Scene Excerpt
With Rachel beside him, Brent turned the old post office van towards a small cabin. A man stood waiting at the roadside for them.
“Old Arnold,” Brent said. “He’s a bit of a hermit. See that box behind your seat?”
Rachel glanced back over her shoulder. “Yes.”
“Those are his groceries and other things he needs from town. Jenny takes his order every Monday and we bring him the stuff. He doesn’t come to town very often.”
The van stopped in a cloud of dust and Brent wound down his window. “Hi Arnold,” he called. “Have you got the mail?”
“Hello Mr. Blackwood,” the old man said. He squinted in the sun and his eyes lifted to focus on Rachel. “Another pretty lady with you, I see.”
Brent laughed. “Jenny’s back at the post office. This is my wife, Rachel. You’ve heard me speak of her.”
“Aye, that I have.” The old man tipped his hat. “Top of the morning to you. Mrs. Blackwood.” He scratched on a stubbly chin, “It’s the afternoon so I should say the bottom of the afternoon, I guess.” He chuckled at his own joke. “Just put the things in the kitchen as usual, Mr. Blackwood. The mail bag hasn’t got much in it today.”
Brent climbed out into the hot sunlight and opened the back door. He lifted out the groceries and waited while Rachel walked around beside him. All the time Arnold just stood by the roadside and watched.
“That’s about all you’ll get out of him,” Brent said. “Come on, I’ll carry the stuff in and get the mail bag.”
“Brent,” Rachel whispered as they walked towards the cabin. “That Arnold!”
“Yeah, he’s a strange old guy. Jenny said he’s harmless, though. He just waits there at the roadside and waves when we head off. I guess being alone makes one a bit eccentric.”
“It’s more than that,” Rachel said.
They walked into a tidy little room. Brent placed the groceries on the kitchen sink and picked up a canvas bag from the table. He swung it over his shoulder and headed out. to find Arnold still standing in exactly the same spot, staring at them. “I know,” she gasped. “Can you go and have another chat with him?”
“Sure, we usually say a few words before I head back.”
“And look at his lips,” Rachel whispered.
Brent frowned and gave a tiny nod. He walked towards the old man. “Well, we’ll be off then. Is there anything you’d like us to bring you on Thursday, Arnold.”
“She’ll be right, Mr. Blackwood. Your other young wife always takes my grocery order.”
“Jenny’s not my wife. Rachel is,” Brent explained. He glanced at Rachel who looked seriously back into his eyes. Of course, she wanted him to look at the old guy’s lips. He jerked in surprise. There was something wrong. Arnold’s lips seemed to out of synchronization with the words he spoke. He stopped moving his lips before his voice stopped.
Brent noticed Rachel walk along the road for several meters, turn and rush back. She looked pale as she stepped beside him and discretely tugged his sleeve.
“I’ll talk. You walk up the road,” she whispered before she turned to Arnold. “Are you sure there’s nothing else you’d like from town,” she said in a gushy voice. “The latest newspaper or some fresh fruit? We have a new crop of plums, cucumbers and watermelons.”
“That is very kind of you, Mrs. Blackwood but I don’t go for those fancy foods. Just the basics that Jenny orders will be fine.”
Brent ambled sideways as he casually looked out at the mountains. After about fifty meters, he stopped and turned. He gasped. Oh hell! Rachel appeared to be talking to herself. Arnold had disappeared! He tried to stop his pounding heart while he walked slowly back. After several paces, a shimmering version of Arnold appeared in front of Rachel. The shimmer solidified and Arnold appeared normal with Rachel engaging him in conversation
Bottom Scene Excerpt
“We’re going into a spiral that takes us beneath the city,” Zazzlot said. “At the bottom we continue for a few moments and enter a subway station. From there on we’ll be on the subway line itself.”
The change came almost immediately. The concrete changed to white tile, marble like in appearance and overhead lights shone down from the ceiling. Another train flashed by but the carriages all appeared to be enpty. Brent felt Rachel tap his arm and he turned to look out the left side. They were moving past a wide platform lit up with lights. It had curved tiled walls and a white floor. Seats were along the wall and at intervals, there were doors and windows of what could have been shops. Faded signs seemed to show advertising.
“Why was it so clean?” Jenny asked as they left the station and continued through the tunnel ahead. “If it isn’t used, shouldn’t it be covered in dust and grime, not to mention spiders and other creepy things?”
“Robotic cleaners,” Waxlyn the alien woman said. “The robots we use in Betaham were taken from these substations and adapted. Every station is clean and well lit. We believe they just kept on going for centuries after all life was destroyed above them.”
“Eerie,” Rachel whispered. “That toothpaste advertisement was faded but was easy to read. I wonder if they repainted it.”
“You read it?’ Zazzlot, the male alien , asked in a strange voice.
Rachel turned to him and frowned. “Didn’t you see it along the station wall?”
“The smiling girl’s face with those shining white teeth.”
“That’s it,” Rachel said. “Did you see it, Brent?”
“A mere glimpse as we flashed by,” Brent said.
“Toughens as it cleans,” Rachel quoted. “I never had time to read the smaller writing.”
“You read that or just made it up?” Zazzlot said again.
“Read it. Why not?” Rachel retorted.
“That advertisement wasn’t in English or our language,” Zazzlot said. “It used the alphabet and language of your ancestors. ”
“That was another reason we decided to use English for you all. We have had extreme difficulty deciphering this ancient language,” Waxlyn said. “It was never included in your memory files when you were cloned.”
“But I read it!” Rachel gasped.
“The sight of that advertisement brought it back into your mind.” Zazzlot whispered. “You must have remembered the original language that your ancestors spoke. You may have been interested in reading so the memory of the words came to you.”
Rachel stared at her alien companion. How could this be possible?